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Next Season Starts Now

by Alison High / San Jose Sharks
When the traditional Captain’s Practice sessions began last week, a handful of Sharks veterans were present at Sharks Ice at San Jose.

On Monday, more than a handful were in attendance. The group consisted of veterans Joe Thornton, Evgeni Nabokov, Dan Boyle, Devin Setoguchi, Brad Lukowich, Jody Shelley and new acquisition Scott Nichol. Other NHL veterans included two former Sharks -- Owen Nolan (Minnesota) and Brad Stuart (Detroit) -- as well as Phoenix Coyotes right wing Viktor Tikhonov.

There are no formal invitations. No E-mails or phone calls. The players just know it’s time to return to the ice.

“It’s been like this for so many years now,” Nabokov said. “By the middle or end of August, we always have this time to skate. No one calls anyone. It’s so that we can start skating with each other before the coaches are watching us.”

All these players show up for an hour’s worth of scrimmaging and a 90-minute workout before or after their time on the ice. Attendance is optional and coaches aren’t allowed to be present.

Monday marked the first time Nabokov attended a practice and the first time he put on his new skates. Breaking in his equipment is a slow and painful process. During his 20 minutes on the ice, Nabokov skated and stretched, but never went into the crease.

“I didn’t even face a shot, I need to break in my skates first,” he said. “It’s worse than breaking in new shoes. It feels really awkward.”

Most of the players attending these informal training sessions are Silicon Valley residents or have returned early to get their kids back to school. The rest of the team will be gradually returning over the next couple of weeks in preparation for Training Camp. Rookies report on Sept. 5, veterans on Sept. 13 and scrimmages will take place on Sept. 13-15.

Setoguchi calls the Bay Area home and has attended all of the Captain’s Practices.

“They started last week,” Setoguchi said. “We’ve got just under a month before camp and we’re getting our legs, our hands and our lungs back.”

According to Setoguchi, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Cheechoo attended practices last week and Torrey Mitchell has been skating and working out, but not during the Captain’s Practice.

Captain’s Practices are open to the public and start at 10 a.m., Monday through Thursday. The session usually runs about an hour and takes place on the South Rink at Sharks Ice at San Jose.

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